Ice hockey officials’ coping and performance


“Hardly anyone studies officiating,” says Kim Dorsch. “We’re usually more concerned with athletes’ performance rather than officiating performance. However, it’s an interesting population from an applied sport psychology perspective.”

Dorsch is a professor in the University of Regina’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies. She does research in the field of sport psychology, examining the psychological stressors and coping styles of ice hockey officials.

“People often complain about officials,” she says. “But there’s not a lot of training programs for them other than learning the rules.”

She finds that officials encounter different stressors as they move through levels of officiating. However, education and training programs do not often include mental skills training.

“Officials face specific challenges and stressors, having to make complex cognitive decisions within small periods of time.”

Developing a good working relationship with the Saskatchewan Hockey Association, Dorsch studied different aspects of officiating in order see how different stressors impact officials’ performance.

“There’s a crisis in officiating,” Dorsch maintains. “Attrition rates in most sports are high and the loss of qualified officials ends up having huge financial implications.”

She has just finished a study in which sports officials trained on an attentional tool, which had an impact on officiating performance. This research has broad implications, not just for hockey but for all competitive sports. As participation rates increase, sports organizations need more research and tools to retain qualified officials.

This research was funded by Sport Canada through the Sports Participation Research Initiative.